USM observes third annual It’s On Us week
“This conversation can’t stop, and it can’t just happen once or twice a year,” said It’s On Us Campaign Director Carlee Welch-Dick. “We have to make sure that it’s an ongoing thing.”
The University of Southern Mississippi’s Student Government Association (SGA) aims to continue the conversation for prevention of sexual assault on college campuses by holding its third annual It’s On Us campaign March 20 – 24.
The SGA adopted the campaign, created by the White House, to get students more involved in ending sexual assault and domestic violence on college campuses.
“I hope that this week encourages others to implement programming that also addresses this issue,” Welch- Dick said. “I hope it creates healthy conversations and an atmosphere and a campus that support survivors so they know that they can talk about it.”
According to notalone.gov, one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college, most often during her freshman or sophomore year.
The university’s Title IX Office works on cases involving sexual assault by monitoring outcomes, identifying and addressing patterns and assessing effects on the campus climate.
Title IX Coordinator Rebecca Woodrick Malley said she noticed a pattern in sexual assault cases on USM’s campus.
“Particularly in those situations that involve allegations of sexual assault, misuse of alcohol is usually a common thing I would say is easily in 95 percent of the cases,” she said.
For this year’s campaign, SGA members said they created daytime and nighttime events, publicity and demonstrations to catch students’ attention.
“We really need other organizations to take it on and bring it up,” Welch- Dick said. “It’s not just Greek Life and SGA that wants to talk about it. It’s happening in all of these organizations. It’s happening in residence halls. It’s happening everywhere. It’s not just our responsibility. It’s on everybody.”
The week kicked off on Monday with a screening of documentary “The Hunting Ground” featuring Will Frankenberger, the director of Delta Zeta’s Risk Prevention and Education, as a speaker.
Tuesday included a demonstration day in which 400 teal flags were placed around campus. Each flag represented 800 Americans, age 12 and over, who were sexually assaulted or raped. As students walked past the pennants in direction of the Thad Cochran Center, a performance was held by Ameiia Watson singing Lady Gaga’s “Till It Happens to You,” which was written for “The Hunting Ground’s” soundtrack.
SGA switched gears on Wednesday by having bystander intervention training. The event was a scenario training that demonstrated a mock party environment. It gave students a hands-on and visual idea of what a typical party may look like and how to be aware of certain unsafe behaviors or environments.
The week continues Thursday with 1 in 5 Day. It includes an activity to help explain to students the meaning of “1 in 5” and how it affects them.
Friday will wrap everything up with students signing a pledge against sexual assault.
Southern Miss was the first of 200 universities in the country to participate in this campaign.
Those assaulted in any manner are encouraged to contact either the University Police Department or the Title IX Office.
“Any student or employee, he or she, should contact the Title IX Office anytime he or she feels like they have been victimized in anyway because of their sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or pregnancy status,” Malley said.
Students can report a concern or make an anonymous report by visiting usm.edu/compliance-ethics.